As I participate in forums and mentor other photographers I often get asked what I feel my biggest mistakes were when starting out in photography. Hold on tight but here I go with a bit of honesty – I made mistakes big and small and A LOT of mistakes. However, with each mistake I made it was a chance to learn and grow in photography and business. So I will take a big forkful of humble pie and share with you my top five mistakes in my photography business.
1.) Working for friends-I love that I have clients who are like friends but the other direction friends who are clients is not a good course of action. You should never work for someone who knows your most embarrassing stories and moments in life. My personal advice is to create one degree of separation from the friend so I would say perhaps do a shoot for a friend of friend. At the end of the day if you must shoot for a friend make sure they pay full price, sign a contract and no freebies. Make it as much like a working relationship as possible!
2.) Trying to hard to be a rockstar- Full confession: I am a nerd. When I first started in photography I wanted to be just like all the rockstar photographers that I met. I tried to be one I really did by quoting current song lyrics, overusing the words awesome and rockin’ and talking about how amazing I was but this caused me to realize that I am not like that as a writer or a person. I think being a rockstar is too hard so I am just going to be myself. Here in no particular order are things I love that will never contribute to my being a rockstar photographer: my love of hypermiling in my hybrid, my a cappella music obsession, the fact that I constantly attempt to give myself a cool nickname, and the way I can wax poetic about fried chicken and sweet tea for hours. So there is definitely no chance anyone will ever think I am cool enough to mistake me for a rockstar but that is alright because my clients and friends think I am pretty cool the way I am!
3.) Trying to make everyone like me-I have a need to please in a big way. I want everyone to like me and I mean everyone. At consults I tried to fit the mold of what couples would want, at networking events I tried to make other vendors like me but here is the honest, hard truth that I learned: everyone will not like you and that is ok. I am who I am and if people don’t like me there is nothing wrong with that is ok and it is no reflection of me personally.
4.) Not asking for what I needed – When I went to weddings I was afraid to ask for what I needed no matter what it was – more time, more cooperation or a change in schedule. I think this ties into number three where I want everyone to like to me but I had to reconfigure how I viewed my job as a photographer. My job is pretty awesome but first and foremost it is a job and has requirements and I have realized it has needs such as time. It has taken some time but I have gained the confidence to say to people that I need more time to get them the pictures they desire rather than running around like a headless chicken trying to get everything without enough time to do my job properly. I have realized that as the professional, people are counting on you to tell them what you need, so state it loud and state it often. Another thing that I had difficulty with was asking for cooperation from people at the weddings during group picture times. Trying to get everyone to focus and pay attention to the photographer on the wedding day is difficult so I have started to ask them to help me so I can get my job. You know what? The world did not end because I asked for help and that was a big lesson I needed to learn.
5.) Not giving myself a break – For many years Scott and I worked like gangbusters for 60 hours a week in an attempt to set land speed records for finishing projects. In the meantime though we lost a little bit of us. Date night went by the wayside when we had a client meeting, we sat on our computers answering emails and working not actually watching TV, and honestly for a while we could have written off our dinners out because we talked so much about the business. It only took a little while for us to realize that this was affecting not only our relationship but our clients as well. We were getting tired and burned out very quickly with the schedule we were working. It didn’t take long before we had to re-evaluate what was not working about this system and it was the schedule for sure. We need to set boundaries, have time off and give ourselves a break. So now we always have one date night (sometimes two) a week, we make sure to take time for friends and sometimes we turn everything off, give ourselves a break and take time to be us-Scott and Lisa (or L.K. as I am calling myself this week), a husband and wife.
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